Author Archives: Kasia Marciszewska

Kasia Marciszewska

About Kasia Marciszewska

Kasia Marciszewska is a writer and editor with experience working in magazines, newspapers and web. She covers topics relating to business, entertainment, health care, sustainability, philanthropy and more.

Sustainable Energy in Arizona - AB Magazine November/December 2011

Cohesive Plan Needed For Sustainable Energy Movement

Without a cohesive plan, experts worry that the ‘green’ and sustainable energy movement could become muddy

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has a straightforward definition for sustainability.

“Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment.  Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.”

It is this simple principle that has resulted in sustainability making an increasing presence across the globe — and Arizona is no exception. There has been such push for green in Arizona that numerous groups, organizations and companies with a focus on sustainable energy and growing renewable energy resources have emerged in in the state.

All this is great news. However, while many of these businesses and organizations share a passion, what they don’t share is a cohesive vision for how best to proceed forward. The piece of the puzzle that is missing begs the question: how do we get all the players on the same page to create the best plan for sustainable energy in Arizona?

“I suppose if we looked at any area — like the automobile industry — that are now considered very mature industries, they’ve gone through the same kind of thing where there is a plethora of different ways to pursue the business,” says Craig Robb, managing director of Zion Energy Link, a new branch of Zions Bancorporation dedicated to funding renewable energy projects.

And just like any burgeoning industry, sustainability in Arizona has achieved incredible growth over the last several years. The Grand Canyon State is home to the first sustainability school of its kind, Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability. The school offers a wide-ranging program focused on various aspects of sustainability, including its economic, environmental, and social challenges.  It has also put Arizona on the map in the eyes of the global green industry.

In addition, many sustainability-focused companies have chosen to make Arizona their home, including China-based Suntech Power Holdings and Rioglass Solar. This was no doubt helped by the passing of Senate Bill 1403, the Renewable Energy Tax Incentive Program that was signed into law in 2009. Incentives for this program include a refundable tax credit and a property tax reduction.

“Arizona is making great progress,” says Barbara Lockwood, director of energy innovation for APS. “We have some very aggressive goals and we’ve seen a tremendous amount of success to date.”

But yet, this success hasn’t translated to a strategic and unified vision between all the entities rooting for this industry to succeed. The verdict is in.

“Yes, there are definitely differing opinions and largely those differences are simply a matter of perspective,” Lockwood says. “Everyone agrees that growth in sustainable energy is good for Arizona.  The key issues are how to achieve that growth in a responsible, sustainable fashion.”

There are many ideas as to what direction the industry should take and the key to executing them will be ongoing communication and cooperation.

“The fortunate thing is I’m really seeing a very assertive effort by some great business leaders to try to … create a consistency to those programs and concepts and look at where (everyone can fit),” Robb says. “They all can work together… It’s going to take work and there is a lot people that have a keen focus on taking care of Arizona and dealing with a well-designed, sustainable program for the state,” he adds.

One way to create consistency is to continue growth. Companies that already have a well-known presence in the state — First Solar, SolarCity, and Solon Corporation — are doing their part to keep the green momentum going. First Solar, a global leader in the manufacture of thin film photovoltaic modules chose to base their efforts in a community committed to sustainability, says Steve Krum, director of internal communications at First Solar.

“Our new manufacturing facility in Mesa brings it all home for us,” Krum says. “It shows how the work we do can directly contribute to the local economy. And we receive the benefit of a talented workforce and a community that understands and values the contribution industry has to sustainability efforts.”

Local businesses across the board have also started to implement a variety of sustainability agendas. From the smaller but equally important aspects of sustainability such as recycling programs and green practices to larger facets such as solar installation and wind energy — sustainability isn’t going anywhere.

“There is huge opportunity for all forms of alternative energy to contribute to the grid. Solar, wind, hydro, geo-thermal … all of these make a real difference,” Krum says.

For those involved in the sustainability industry the answer seems to be pretty simple.

“The forum created and nurtured by Valley Forward — and now Arizona Forward — is crucial to ongoing dialogue between all stakeholders aspiring to shape sustainable development.  Understanding of each other’s visions, goals and objectives will allow each of us to better define and clarify our individual contributions,” Krum says.

For more information about Valley Forward and sustainable energy in Arizona, visit www.valleyforward.org.

Arizona Business Magazine November/December 2011

Environmental Legal Issues - AZ Business Magazine November/December 2011

Arizona Faces Environmental Legal Issues To Grow ‘Green’ Movement

Though Arizona may be working to reach a higher standard of sustainability, a myriad of environmental legal issues will be seen as these changes are implemented. Arizona Business Magazine spoke with the state’s top law firms and industry experts to find out the most important environmental legal issues the state can expect to face in the next decade.

Particulate Matter-10

Attorney Megan Lennox of Bryan Cave LLP says, “The single biggest environmental legal issue Arizona will be facing for the foreseeable future is the regulation, implementation and enforcement of regulations concerning Particulate Matter-10, also referred to as PM-10, which is essentially “dust.”’

According to an Aug. 25, 2011, press release by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality stressing a high pollution advisory: “State and county agencies measure PM-10 and PM-2.5 which are extremely small solid particles and liquid droplets found circulating in the air. PM, or particulate matter, comes from either combustion (cars, industry, woodburning) or dust stirred up into the air. High levels of PM are typically created when the air is especially stagnant or especially windy. PM-10 stands for particulate matter measuring 10 microns or less. PM-2.5 stands for particulate matter measuring 2.5 microns or less. To put this in perspective, one strand of human hair is 70-100 microns in size.”

“Over the summer, we saw a number of High Pollution Advisory (HPA) warnings issued by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) relating to PM-10, particularly in connection with the haboobs (dust storms) we’ve been having in the Valley this summer,” Lennox says. “But what is not as commonly known is that, even without a haboob, Arizonans face real health threats caused by common everyday dust generating activities.

“Indeed, the EPA has not been satisfied with what the Arizona has done in the way of dust control thus far, and because Arizona continues to exceed federal air quality standards for PM-10, we are now facing a very real possibility that the EPA will push the Arizona regulators aside and step in with their own plan to reduce PM-10.

“The real issue of concern is that, if the EPA is required to step in, Arizona will stand to lose over a billion dollars in federal highway funds,” Lennox says. “This translates to further loss of jobs, no new transportation projects, and likely intense regulation and economic impact to the construction industry — all of which will be decidedly detrimental to Arizona’s economy overall.”

Lennox says that Arizonans must prepare and prevent this from happening by doing their part, which includes refraining from leaf blowers, no fires in the fireplace, driving down dusty roads and joining forces with regulators “toward the common goal of reduction of PM-10 and maintenance of federal funding – both of which, everyone should be able to agree, are critical for the long-term health and prosperity of the Valley.”

Michelle De Blasi, partner at Quarles & Brady agrees: “Serious nonattainment areas must demonstrate PM-10 emission reductions of five percent per year until the standard is attained.  The state and local governments have instituted many measures to make these reductions.  To reach attainment, three years of clean data are needed at all PM-10 monitors… The state and local governments have instituted many proactive control measures to try to limit excesses at the monitors caused by dust.”

Utility Deregulation

As the state continues to develop renewable energy, several legal issues can arise. Court Rich, an attorney at Rose Law Group states that: “As renewable energy prices come down its implementation will grow quicker.  At some point the technology involved in distributed roof top solar energy is going to allow people not only to produce energy during the day but to store energy for power at night.”

If people are able to produce the energy they need, should they pay a utility company for its electricity service? These are the types of questions Arizona may face as renewable energy production grows.

“The State has previously looked into forms of utility deregulation…(and) could review forms of deregulation that may set up a better environment for future competition among energy providers ultimately providing lower cost electricity to all Arizonans and providing greater choices to the consumer,” Rich adds.

Balancing environmental protections with economic impacts

“Implementing more protective environmental regulations must be balanced with their economic impacts,” says Matt Bingham, attorney at Lewis and Roca.

Sometimes, small improvements that can be made come at a significant cost and may not be worthwhile for the state to pursue.

“(Government) agencies have accomplished A LOT since environmental laws were first enacted,” says Bingham, “but at some point, the costs of making further improvement are going to outweigh the benefits.  Agencies need to adequately consider industry’s concerns when developing stricter environmental standards to ensure that the benefits outweigh the costs.  Failing to do so will prolong Arizona’s economic recovery.”

Growth of renewable energy

“In Arizona, regulated utilities are expected to get 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025 (in 2011, the goal is 3 percent),” says Bingham, attorney at Lewis and Roca. “This will require a massive expansion of our renewable energy capabilities over the next 10-15 years.”

As Arizona tries to catch up on renewable energy growth compared with some of its sustainability-driven neighboring states, many environmental impacts will need to be addressed. These include land use, water use, and effects on wildlife, endangered species and several others.

“The growth of renewable energy in the state also involves policy choices by the legislature and the Arizona Corporation Commission,” says Bingham.

Some examples:
➢    Requiring utilities to procure renewable energy.
➢    Increasing demand for solar by providing incentives.
➢    Providing tax incentives for companies who locate manufacturing and other facilities in the state and create jobs.

Arizona has essentially decided that it wants to be a hub of the growing solar industry and has made some good moves in that direction but it needs to continue pursuing an effective, comprehensively designed strategy while assuring companies that this support will not fade,” Bingham adds.

Enforcement of regulatory policies:

Since 61 percent of land in Arizona is either managed or controlled by federal agencies, many policies involving land use have a disproportionate impact upon our state, says Jeff Littell, principal geologist at Brown & Caldwell.

“By far, the greatest environmental issues facing Arizona will arise from federal agencies and their imbalanced enforcement of existing regulatory policies or the increased promulgation of new rules and regulations,” Littell says.

The state should apply balanced and measured responses to difficult environmental issues while empowering state agencies and the Legislature to defend Arizona against misapplied federal actions, Littell adds. “The results of their interaction with county and state agencies will have a profound impact on the long term success of Arizona, the diversity of our economy, and our ability to emerge from the current economic situation.”

For more information about environmental legal issues and other environmental issues, visit www.valleyforward.org.

 

Arizona Business Magazine November/December 2011

 

Arizona Forward - AB Magazine November/December 2011

Arizona Forward Hopes To Preserve Parks, Open Land

As one of the earliest pioneers of sustainability in the Valley, Valley Forward has had an Arizona presence for 42 years. The organization’s focus on land use and open space, air quality, water, energy and transportation has grown immensely since its inception. It is no surprise that this progressive group has once again embarked on the next sustainable step with the creation of Arizona Forward — a public interest coalition aimed at bringing together business, community and civic leaders to convene public dialogue and advocacy on sustainability in the state.

“By promoting cooperative efforts between Arizona cities and towns, the state’s livability, sustainability and economic vitality will be enhanced for both current and future generations,” says Kurt Wadlington, employee-owner at Sundt Construction, Tucson Building Group Leader and Arizona Forward advisory board chair.

Arizona Forward is initially expected to focus on the Sun Corridor, the region encompassing Tucson to Phoenix, hoping to encourage collaborative efforts between members and strike a balance between economic growth and environmental quality.

“We believe there is a strong connection between the health of our environment and the health of our economy,” says Pat Graham, state director of the Nature Conservancy in Arizona. “Arizona Forward provides an opportunity for like-minded businesses and organizations from across the state to come together and come up with solutions.”

First on the agenda for the coalition is spreading the message about the importance of parks and open spaces and their economic impact on the state.

According to the Outdoor Industry Foundation, nearly 5.5 million Arizonans participate in outdoor recreation. This leads to approximately $350 million in annual state tax revenue and supports 82,000 jobs in Arizona.  Arizona Forward leaders say the economic impact of parks and open spaces is just one reason why the business community should take notice and take a stand.

“One of the challenges today is the complexity of the problems we face,” Graham says. “It requires working together in new ways and with new partners to find solutions that improve the health of both the economy and our environment to maintain a good quality of life in Arizona.”

A study compiled by WestGroup Research on behalf of Valley Forward found that 93 percent of Arizonans categorize parks and open space as “essential” to Arizona’s tourism industry. The study also found that 23 percent of Arizonans visit parks or recreation areas at least once a week.

Just how much open space are we talking about? State and federal entities, along with Native American tribes in Arizona manage more than 70 million acres of land (excluding county and municipal parks). Not surprisingly, negative effects on our parks and open space have a big impact on the state’s bottom line.

“Economic development and new jobs rely on lifestyle considerations,” Wadlington says. “Parks, forests, refuges and other open spaces support the quality-of-life factors that can make a difference for communities seeking to attract employers and a strong workforce. Access to open space boosts property values and provides healthy outdoor recreational opportunities for residents and tourists alike. If we don’t prioritize our parks and open space, we will lose our most treasured resources.”

Prioritizing these aspects has a major economic impact on Arizona. A 2009 National Parks Second Century Commission projected that every $1 in taxpayer money spent on national parks returned a $4 economic benefit through tourism and private sector spending. A June 2011 press release from the Department of the Interiors’ Economic Contributions Report further emphasized this information, with data showing that Arizona’s public lands supported 21,364 jobs and contributed nearly $2 billion to Arizona’s economy.

It is figures like these that Arizona Forward hopes will get the public and policy makers involved with protecting parks and open spaces. State legislators must stop encroaching on the parks-system budget and instead focus on securing funding for their protection, Valley forward leaders say.

“A depressed economy has impacted parks negatively at every jurisdictional level,” Wadlington says. He noted that an already-weakened parks system could be further depleted if lawmakers don’t get the message from their voters about protecting these open spaces.

“As the economy recovers and state revenues return, legislators will be faced with many choices on how to best allocate these funds,” Wadlington says. “As a community, we have to step forward collectively and make a strong case for the parks system and open space preservation.”

Like the mission Valley Forward embarked on 42 years ago, Arizona Forward hopes to serve as the catalyst for change during these trying times.  A diverse membership group with a common goal of environmental stewardship hopes to protect the state’s important parks and open spaces and other environmental issues facing Arizona.

“Future Arizona vision: A place where people want to live and work, where growth occurs responsibly and does not diminish quality-of-life,”  Wadlington says. “A place where business thrives, creating public revenue that can be reinvested in perpetuating sustainability of our state’s natural resources and quality-of-life amenities.”

For more information about Valley Forward and Arizona Forward, visit www.valleyforward.org.

Arizona Business Magazine November/December 2011

 

AHCCCS Alternative - AZ Business Magazine July/August 2011

AzHHA Proposes Alternative To Medicaid Reform Plan, AHCCCS

AzHHA and other health care organizations propose an alternative to Gov. Brewer’s Medicaid reform plan, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System ( AHCCCS )

The economic recession has had an impact on industries across the board and health care in Arizona is no exception. Arizona hospitals have lost more than $700 million in state and federal Medicaid funds since 2008 due to previous payment cuts and freezes and another $530.7 million in cuts is headed to hospitals in fiscal year 2012, bringing the total cuts to $1.3 billion.

To address the state’s fiscal woes, the Legislature passed a budget that authorizes several reforms to Arizona’s Medicaid program, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS).

On March 15, 2011, Gov. Jan Brewer presented her plan, which includes reforms that will lower costs by an estimated $500 million in the State’s General Fund for the partial first year.

Included in these reforms is a phase-out plan for the Proposition 204 population — a voter-passed initiative that entitles anyone whose annual income is equal to or below the federal poverty level of $11,000 annually for an individual to AHCCCS coverage.

In a statement on the organization’s website, the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association (AZHHA) stated they are “deeply concerned that the budget will damage Arizona’s economy at a time when we are struggling mightily to recover from the recession. The budget authorizes the Arizona Health Care Containment System (AHCCCS) Administration to alter eligibility in a way that could result in 160,000 patients losing their healthcare coverage and financially harm the hospitals and healthcare professionals who will care for them when they become ill or injured.”

The most pertinent matters to AzHHA include: the 5 percent cut in all provider payments; the elimination of the Medical Expense Deduction program for patients with catastrophic illnesses and injuries; elimination of federal emergency services coverage for foreign national patients; and implementation of an inpatient bed day limit.

“Each of these proposals will increase the cost of uncompensated care hospitals provide, part of which will be passed on to patients with private health insurance,” says Laurie Liles, president and CEO of AzHHA.

“When AHCCCS and other government programs stop paying for care or pay hospitals significantly less than the cost of caring for their patients, hospitals must make up these losses elsewhere,” Liles adds. “Some hospitals — particularly those located in small, rural communities that operate on very slim margins and serve a high number of AHCCCS patients — have little ability to shift their costs to commercial plans. For those hospitals, the cumulative effect of the AHCCCS budget cuts will be devastating,”

As CEO of a hospital in a rural community, Tim Barnett of Yavapai Regional Medical Center understands this all too well: “Cutting expenses may seem like a good short-term solution but when those cuts are carefully and thoroughly analyzed, it’s clear that the long-term ramifications are potentially disastrous,” Barnett says. “It is far more prudent to think in terms of identifying additional sources of cash coming into our state for the benefit of all our residents.”

According to Barnett, Yavapai Regional Medical Center will lose at least $14 million annually from the cuts in AHCCCS funding.  This amount is more money than the center’s annual net revenue.  “We would have to look at very drastic changes in how we serve our community… The cuts would affect our ability to care for everyone, not just AHCCCS patients,” Barnett says.

Jim Dickson, CEO of Copper Queen Community Hospital in Bisbee agrees. “It will have a severe economic impact… They’re downsizing the healthcare system substantially, Arizona is already undeserved and we’re going even lower.”

On average, AHCCCS now pays hospitals less than 70 percent of the costs they sustain caring for Medicaid patients. Weathering the recession has been difficult enough and these additional cuts would force hospitals to cope with losses by delaying construction projects, some staff may experience salary freezes and furloughs, eliminating certain high-cost services, leaving vacant positions unfilled and more.

Though AzHHA supports Governor Brewer’s effort to preserve coverage for the existing Proposition 204 population, their goal is to maintain coverage for even more Arizona residents. AzHHA along with a coalition of Arizona hospitals, Medicaid health plans and skilled nursing facilities has proposed a viable alternative to the proposed reforms — a special health care assessment that would generate $465 million to protect coverage for low-income Arizonans.

“AzHHA believes the special healthcare assessment represents a fiscally responsible alternative to AHCCCS cuts included in the recently enacted state budget and the cuts included in the governor’s Medicaid Reform Plan,” Liles says.

AzHHA’s proposal, developed with the Arizona Association of Health Plans (AzAHP) and the Arizona Health Care Association (AHCA), would be tied to available funds and bring in $465 million annually, which would then generate two federal matching dollars for every one dollar from the assessments. The assessments would also stop reductions in health care provider rates, a component of Gov. Brewer’s proposal.

“Part of the federal match would be used to reimburse providers for the assessment, so there is no pressure to pass the assessment on to commercial insurers, business or patients,” Liles says. “The assessment is a ‘loan’ to the state to bring in additional federal dollars to help cover people enrolled in the Proposition 204 program.”

The federal matching funds would come from federal tax dollars that Arizonans are already paying and the assessment is considered to be a short-term solution through 2013 while the economy recovers. In the meantime, the organization plans to work with policy makers on a long-term plan to streamline Medicaid utilization and improve quality of care. Many of the hospitals that may otherwise be adversely affected by Gov. Brewer’s reforms have a positive outlook on the health care assessment.

“AzHHA’s proposal is definitely a good alternative… The best-case scenario would be for the legislature and the governor to work collaboratively along with AzHHA and its colleagues to implement the best solutions for patients,” Barnett says. Recognizing the economic difficulties Arizona is facing and a shared mission of helping heal the state’s economy is something Barnett hopes will bring both sides to a resolution.

“We’re blessed that we already have that solution developed…  AzHHA, nursing homes, Medicaid insurance plans and hospitals throughout Arizona are focused on how we can contribute to the solution and how we can help make Arizona an even better place to live and work,” he says.

AzHHA plans to work with policy makers to ensure that lawmakers reconsider their health care assessment and support this alternative to eliminating health care coverage and provider payment cuts.


AHCCCS Cuts Hurt Arizona’s Economy

  • The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), the state’s Medicaid program, is a shared matching program between the state and federal government. For every $1 the state puts in, the federal government matches it with $2.
  • A rollback of the Prop. 204 population would result in a loss of nearly $1.5 billion in state and federal funding. The annualized impact is $2.27 billion.
  • If Arizona chooses to opt-out of the Medicaid program, the state will be removing $7.2 billion in federal money from the economy.
  • Money spent on healthcare is a long-term investment that pays off. The healthcare sector is vast, and there are many large and small companies in various industries. It is also one of the only areas of the economy that has continued to grow throughout the recession.

 


AHCCCS Cuts Result in Job Losses

  • As lawmakers struggle to recover the 300,000 jobs lost during the current recession, cuts to the AHCCCS program undermine these efforts by causing more jobs to be lost.
  • Arizona currently holds a 9.4% unemployment rate.
  • Scaling back Prop. 204 will eliminate 13,568 private-sector healthcare jobs and 30,000 jobs across all areas of the private sector, as well as a reduction of $2.5 billion to the gross state product in the first full year of the rollback.
  • A total elimination of Arizona’s Medicaid program would result in a loss of 159,000 jobs, nearly 82,000 in healthcare alone. The healthcare jobs that will be affected are high quality, high-paying positions such as physicians, physician assistants, nurses, dentists, physical therapists, and behavioral health professionals.
  • These cuts and resulting job losses then create an access-to-care issue (particularly in rural areas) for all patients when services and the professionals who provide them are no longer available.

 


AHCCCS Cuts Create a Cost Shift to Arizona’s Businesses

  • Healthcare providers often respond to reductions in AHCCCS payments by shifting a portion of the cost to private payers and insurance companies, which results in higher premiums for Arizona’s businesses and the privately insured.
  • This cost shift limits the ability for businesses to grow and prosper.

 

Sources: The Potential Economic Impact of Withdrawing from Medicaid in Arizona. January 2011. W.P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University.
Arizona Chamber of Commerce


Arizona Business Magazine July/August 2011

AzHHA Conference - AZ Business Magazine July/August 2011

AzHHA Conference Addresses Challenges Facing Health Care Industry

The health care industry has undergone its fair share of challenges in the past, but 2011 has proven to be an exceptionally tough year. The difficult climate has set the stage for the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association’s (AzHHA) Annual Membership Conference, which will tackle the challenges head-on with the all-too appropriate theme, Between a Rock and a Hard Place.

“This year’s conference theme is applicable to many of the challenges facing the health care community today … including the implementation of health care reform, shrinking revenue streams, and the state and national budget woes,” says LeAnn Swanson, vice president of education services for AzHHA. The conference also will cover relevant topics such as advocacy, patient safety and quality, and governance.

The goal of the event, which will take place Oct. 20-21 at the Buttes Resort in Tempe, is to engage AzHHA’s members and keep them educated about pertinent issues affecting the industry. This year’s timely message is sure to make an impact on the audience of chief executive officers, hospital administrators, physician and nurse leaders, hospital trustees, operational leaders and all other members of the hospital family.

“Arizona hospitals and health systems find themselves in a time of both challenge and change,” Swanson says, “and the 2011 annual membership conference is designed to help your organization meet these challenges and changes head-on with instructive knowledge and a hopeful spirit.

“The conference is brimming with energizing and stimulating speakers providing the latest information and insights on the issues you care most about, to ensure your time away from the office is time well spent,” Swanson adds.

The event will begin with a keynote session titled, “From Success to Significance,” presented by Nido Qubein, president of High Point University and chairman of a national retail company. Qubein brings with him a rags-to-riches story of perseverance and business triumph, and will share a powerful message about the fundamentals that contribute to success.

“We are in difficult times and the future is challenging on many levels,” Qubein says. “Today’s health care professional is faced with a myriad of hard decisions that demand tenacity and experience.”

Following Qubein’s keynote will be the conference’s general session titled, “Healthcare Reform: Where are We Now, Where are we Going?” presented by Len Nichols, PhD., the director of the Center for Health Policy Research and Ethics and a professor of health policy at George Mason University.

Joe Tye, CEO and head coach of Values Coach, a consulting, training and leadership coaching company, will lead the informative session “The Florence Prescription (for hospitals and health care)” that will challenge audience members to reignite the spirit of the electrifying Florence Nightingale and her health care pioneers. Tye promises to bring his audience back to basics by reminding them of the importance of focusing on things such as employee engagement and patient satisfaction.

“They will learn specific strategies for building a culture of ownership, which is ultimately the only sustainable source of competitive advantage,” Tye says. He adds that attendees “will be challenged to think as deeply about the cultural blueprints of their hospitals as they do about blueprints for new buildings.”

John Foley, founder and president of CenterPoint Companies, which provides business performance training to Fortune 500 corporations, professional associations and educational organizations around the world, will close out the conference with a presentation on maximizing performance excellence.

There are also a few changes in store for the 2011 event. The conference no longer will feature an awards luncheon and instead will introduce the Honoring Our Professionals of Excellence (HOPE) Award. Deserving members of the health care community will receive recognition for their work, including a Caregiver Award, presented to an individual or care-giving team that has shown commitment to the delivery of quality care; and the Healthcare Leader Award, given to a deserving hospital executive or trustee who has demonstrated a history of noteworthy leadership at the state and/or national level.
The highly informative conference has been a benchmark event for AzHHA, helping to keep members educated and ready to face the challenges ahead.

“Times are difficult and budgets are tight, but your team still needs continuing education to stay current on the latest regulations and trends in the health care industry,” Swanson says.

Fortunately, AzHHA’s educational outreach efforts don’t end with the annual conference. The organization also hosts a multitude of webinars and other events throughout the year to keep their members informed and prepared in the dynamic health care industry.

“I have a depth of admiration for AzHHA and its members and I am most grateful for the continuing valuable work that they do to contribute to a better tomorrow for us all,” Qubein notes.

[stextbox id="info"]

AzHHA’s 2011 Annual Membership Conference

Oct. 20-21
The Buttes Resort
2000 Westcourt Way
Tempe, AZ 85282
azhha.org

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Arizona Business Magazine July/August 2011

 

SkySong is a mixed-use development in Scottsdale with a focus on global industries. - AZ Business Magazine Jan/Feb 2011

GPEC’s Revamped International Leadership Council Looks To Bring Foreign Direct Investment To Arizona

The Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) is sharpening its international approach with an aim toward bringing more foreign direct investment to the state. To that end, GPEC has restructured its International Leadership Committee (ILC).

“My vision is to put Arizona on the radar,” says Rudy Vetter, senior vice president of international business development at GPEC.

Sharon Harper, president and CEO of The Plaza Companies, is one of the ILC’s co-chairmen. The Plaza Companies is the co-developer of SkySong, a mixed-use development in Scottsdale with a focus on global industries.

“Repositioning the (ILC) board and a more strategic focus on foreign direct investment on Europe, Asia and Canada has resulted in a greater number of international prospects and successes,” she says.

Harper notes that the top-tier markets for the committee are those that best align with Arizona, such as China, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, along with Japan, Korea and Canada.

The specific industries being targeted are solar energy, other renewable energy products, clean tech and environmental technology, biotech, medical and life sciences, as well as high-tech manufacturing.

“There is a great opportunity for Arizona and Greater Phoenix to benefit significantly from foreign direct investments. By focusing on Arizona’s core strengths, and specifically the vision at SkySong and other projects that are focused on the global economy, Arizona will be attracting and creating good jobs for our region,” Harper says.

Reducing the committee’s size, along with adding leading investors and major academic leaders in the Valley to its roster, has resulted in a concerted effort to make a more powerful impact in the international arena. Intel, Arizona State University, Thunderbird School of Global Management and the University of Phoenix all have a presence on the committee, as well as representatives from the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada and the Netherlands, among others.

“The key element for the ILC is that they invest their expertise, their skills and knowledge about international affairs, and they combine that with investing into their network, connections and international activity,” Vetter says.

With a diverse and experienced pool of senior executives on the committee, the main goal is to get the word out about Arizona and the many perks it offers.

“It’s about creating awareness,” Vetter says. “Arizona is not necessarily the first state that comes to mind to an international investor. (It’s up to us) to make them aware of the great qualities this place has.

“Very often, we create first contact by meeting companies during trade shows and conferences; we find out if there is a company interested in an operation in the U.S., and we make the case for Arizona and Greater Phoenix,” Vetter adds.

He points out that although Arizona can’t compete with companies looking for an East Coast presence, when it comes to the West, the committee’s job is to ensure the state is on the shortlist of candidates.

Since the passage of the Renewable Energy Tax Incentive Program, Arizona has become a power player in the solar industry, attracting several high-level, international companies to the Valley. To keep the momentum going, Vetter and the rest of the committee work closely with international companies, providing them with step-by-step plans to make their entrance into Arizona a smooth one. The process of foreign companies setting up a presence domestically comes with many challenges, and GPEC strives to ensure the companies’ success.

“It’s a seed that we have to nurture, and sooner or later we can grow a plant,” Vetter says. “They’re coming with an investment, but they have to create the business from scratch. GPEC connects them with local business to get them started faster and to create mutual benefit for the whole community. We hear all the time from companies that locate here; they love this one-stop shopping (GPEC offers).”

As the ILC continues on its mission to attract foreign investors to the area, it also will continue to focus on building a strong sustainability industry in the state.

“The idea of seeing the Valley plastered with solar panels, people driving cars they can plug in and knowing they don’t have to pay their utility bills is a nice vision — but we are not that far from it anymore,” Vetter says.

AZ Business Magazine Jan/Feb 2011

A Rioglass solar facility - AZ Business Magazine Jan/Feb 2011

Renewable Energy Tax Incentive Program Helps GPEC Bring In The Shining Stars Of Solar

It makes sense that a city with an average of more than 321 days of sunshine a year is taking the lead in solar, thanks in large part to the tireless efforts of the energy source’s biggest crusader in Arizona: the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC).

“I think if you look at comprehensively the way that we approach the utilization of solar, this is top-down the best market to do solar manufacturing,” says Chris Camacho, executive vice president of business development at GPEC.

GPEC aggressively pushed for passage of Senate Bill 1403, the Renewable Energy Tax Incentive Program, that was signed into law in 2009. The incentives include a refundable tax credit and a property tax reduction.

Since January 2010, eight companies have made the commitment to come to the Phoenix Metro area, with many more anticipated for the future.

GPEC’s hard work has led to making connections around the globe and attracting a number of high-level renewable energy companies to the Valley. One of these companies is Suntech Power Holdings, the world’s largest manufacturer of photovoltaic modules.

“Arizona can be very proud that it has GPEC as an ambassador for the region to reach out to global companies,” says Wei Tai Kwok, vice president of marketing at China-based Suntech Power Holdings. “They’re pounding the pavement to get the message out there that they want to be the solar capital.”

It was thanks to this commitment that Suntech decided to make Goodyear the location for the company’s first U.S. manufacturing plant.

“(GPEC) helped us with the financial modeling, business plan and follow-up,” Kwok says. “They were very attentive and committed to our success … and they’re still at our side and supportive of our needs.”

He also listed other important attributes that factored into the decision, including the state’s skilled work force and Arizona’s serious commitment to solar energy.

GPEC’s Camacho says that type of confidence and emphasis helps the organization differentiate itself from similar groups.

“GPEC’s brand as a group can provide the highest level of services to companies in analyzing the Western U.S. for business locations,” he adds.

The companies that have worked with GPEC can attest to its capability in assisting with relocation efforts. Rioglass Solar, a company that produces reflector components for solar thermal power plants and is a subsidiary of Rioglass Solar Holdings in Spain, worked with GPEC to establish a manufacturing facility and U.S. headquarters in Surprise.

“It was very helpful for us to have an organization that could get us the support we needed,” says Greg Armstrong, chief operating officer of Rioglass Solar. “You need a site that is constructible, has infrastructure and has a quality work force.”

Armstrong adds that the company is highly confident that due to the support of the local community, the infrastructure and GPEC, coming to Arizona will meet Rioglass Solar’s objectives.

Of course, one of the biggest benefits the expansion of the solar industry in Arizona will have will be on job creation. The more activity there is in the region, the more high-quality jobs will be available. The Suntech plant already has created 80 jobs and is expecting to increase to about 150 people within three or four years. Rioglass Solar also anticipates more than 100 positions at its Surprise facility.

While there has been plenty to celebrate since the passing of the incentive program, there are still hurdles to overcome. The catalysts for future growth of the solar industry in Arizona certainly are in place, but the economic difficulties have had an effect.

“We have seen corporations be very conservative in how quickly they move on investment decisions,” Camacho says. “We still have another 150 renewable energy companies in our pipeline. As the economy continues to recover, credit becomes more available, we will welcome more and more companies.”

It’s safe to say that Arizona is moving ahead in the sustainability industry — most notably in the solar field — and thanks to GPEC’s support, there are no signs of this industry slowing down.

“I look at sustainability alongside health care as one of the two industries that is going to drive our economic future,” Camacho says. “Without groups like GPEC, a lot of this would not exist, and I’ll attribute that to having our team be at the forefront of understanding these technology applications, understanding what drives the location decisions of CEOs, and creating an environment that’s very supportive of the (solar) industry.”

AZ Business Magazine Jan/Feb 2011

Mexican gray wolf photographed by Joel Sartore

Valley Forward Hosts 41st Annual Luncheon Featuring National Geographic Photographer Joel Sartore

Valley Forward hosted its 41st Annual Luncheon Dec. 3, and the event was wild — literally. Guests were greeted by a menagerie of interesting wildlife at this year’s event thanks to the Desert Botanical Garden, Liberty Wildlife, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, The Phoenix Zoo and the Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium. Several animals were showcased at the environmental education exhibits including a bald eagle, American alligator, greyhound owl, African-crested porcupine and more. These exhibits transformed all the attendees back to their school-age, zoo-visiting days, and truly served as a reminder for the topic that was discussed at the luncheon — the importance of fostering our environment.

The keynote speaker  was Joel Sartore, noted wildlife photographer at National Geographic Magazine, author and passionate environmentalist. Sartore presented a heartfelt speech about the importance of helping preserve our environment and making sure that despite the fervent pace of technology innovations, future generations value and experience the great outdoors.

Sartore has witnessed much of the devastation firsthand during his 20 plus years at National Geographic. He has photographed, among others, environmental tragedies such as the recent Gulf Coast oil spill, endangered species and more. His dedication to the cause is also demonstrated in his latest book, Rare: Portraits of America’s Endangered Species, featuring endangered species from all over the world including several from Arizona. Sartore hopes that by photographing wildlife that many people don’t even realize exist, it will draw attention to their cause and maybe help save them. His experience provided the audience with an amazing look into this wild world and what we — everyday, average people — can do to help make a difference.

Congratulations to Valley Forward for once again putting together such an inspiring event. The message of sustainability and environmental stewardship is one that continues to gain momentum. Let’s hope it does so for many years to come.

Read more about Joel Sartore in the November/December issue of AZ Business Magazine here.

www.valleyforward.org
www.joelsartore.com

Joel Sartore Presenting

Showcased at the environmental education exhibit, a bald eagle.American alligator & African-crested porcupine Joel Sartore - Rare: Portraits of America's Endangered Species

Photography of Joel Sartore - AZ Business Magazine Nov/Dec 2010

Life Through The Lens Of Wildlife Photographer Joel Sartore

It is summer in Antarctica. Frigid temperatures have been replaced by mild, 50-degree days.

Surrounded by green hills rolling into lush, snow-capped mountains and thick fog, Joel Sartore is crouching low to the ground. Usually, it is he who is chasing his subjects, but this time the tables have turned. Instead, in the middle of the beach-like terrain, Sartore is surrounded — by penguins. King penguins to be exact.

“Most of the time the animals I’m seeing are running away, they don’t want anything to do with me,” Sartore says, adding that the King penguins did the exact opposite. “They just wanted to stare at me. I got low on the ground and they stood right over me and looked at me. The whole thing was just tranquil, peaceful, and one of the most impressive things I’ve ever been a part of.”

Most of us will never get the chance to experience such an event. But for Sartore, it’s just another day on the job. From Antarctica to Russia, he has seen it all. Throughout his 20-year career working as a photographer for National Geographic, Sartore has traversed the globe, photographing everything from rare wildlife to hurricane aftermath and even state fairs.

“Once I discovered photography, there was never any turning back for me,” he says.

Sartore’s impressive body of work has been featured in Time, Life, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated. He also has contributed to several book projects and has been the subject of national broadcasts.

In addition to his talents as a photographer, Sartore devotes his energy to conservation efforts. A Nebraska native, he is committed to conservation in the Great Plains, is co-founder of the Grassland Foundation, and a founding member of the International League of Conservation Photographers.

Sartore will share his passion for sustainability as the speaker at Valley Forward’s 41st Annual Luncheon on Dec. 3.

“That is just an excellent group. There needs to be 100 groups like them. We have to start talking about this stuff and realizing that it’s easy to be green. It’s certainly a better way to live your life,” Sartore says. “There needs to be more and more people thinking and caring about the earth. We don’t have the luxury of time to count on the next generation to start saving the planet. We have to be doing it now.”

Sartore addresses the global environmental crisis using photography as his platform.

“I really am constantly faced with environmental problems,” says Sartore, a self-professed hyperactive person. “My job is to get people to think.”

While photographing the American Gulf Coast during one of his first assignments for National Geographic, Sartore was drawn to the plight of animals and the environment.

“I remember walking the beach and the bottom of my feet were black with spilled tar and oil, and there was garbage and a dead dolphin wrapped in plastic,” he says. “When you see things like that it makes you think that we could be doing a lot of things better, could be treating the Earth better.”

Sartore’s focus on building a sustainable future has allowed him to draw attention to issues that are often overlooked. His latest book, “Rare: Portraits of America’s Endangered Species,” sheds light on some of the country’s most endangered species of plants and animals, and what the public can do to help. “Rare” was originally inspired by a magazine assignment, before turning into a personal project for Sartore and later a full-fledged book.

Several of the subjects featured in the book were shot in Arizona, including the California condor, photographed at the Phoenix Zoo; and the Tarahumara leopard frog, photographed at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson.

Although, sadly, one of the other animals featured in the book, the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit, became extinct during the book’s production, Sartore emphasizes the importance of highlighting environmental issues.

“It was a very good experience to give a voice for the voiceless,” Sartore says. “The encouraging thing is that most species in the book could make it if we pay attention to it. I guess that’s what I try to convey to people: There’s always hope. These things are absolutely worth saving.”

Sartore’s passion for photography began in high school and continued into college, where he earned a degree in journalism with an emphasis in photojournalism from the University of Nebraska. Thanks to some great mentors, Sartore decided to pursue a career in photography, but he didn’t forget his journalism roots.

“In any of these situations I go into, I bring with me a reporter’s aesthetic and background to it,” he says.

This background has proven beneficial, as he shoots such a wide variety of subjects in exotic locations around the world.
“I want to know why things are the way they are and how to fix it,” he says.

As thrilling as his job may be, it comes with its share of dangers. When asked how many times has he almost been killed, Sartore responds on his website: “More than I care to tell my wife about for sure.”

He hasn’t let the danger stop him, but he does try to err on the side of caution.

“You can’t take more pictures if you’re dead,” he writes.

Sartore continues to journey around the globe in search of the next great photo. Currently, he’s preparing to travel to Africa for an assignment. Despite two decades of experience under his belt, Sartore still worries.

“I’m very nervous that I’ll fail, starve and die, in that order,” he says. Irrational fear or secret to success? Maybe worrying is just part of the job, Sartore adds.

“Everything has worked out well so far, yet I’ve always been very worried that nothing ever would,” he says. “With a strong story you may just reach those people who can change the world. If I can right a few wrongs, then that’s probably a life well spent.”

    If You Go:
    Valley Forward’s 41st Annual Luncheon
    11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
    Dec. 3
    Hyatt Regency Phoenix
    122 N. Second St., Phoenix
    Reservations: info@valleyforward.org; (602) 240-2408


Arizona Business Magazine Nov/Dec 2010

Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency Celebrates Its 40th Anniversary

On Dec. 2, 1970, the the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was founded. Since the inception of the agency, the world has changed. Today, the green movement is stronger than ever, and our focus on bettering the environment is unwavering.

The EPA has also grown with the changing times. You can view the agency’s history on an interactive timeline featured on its website. Some noted achievements include the increase of recycling by American families and businesses. In 1980, only about 10 percent of trash was recycled, increasing to more than 33 percent in 2008. The agency has also helped create high-wage jobs for more than 3,300 Americans and through the passage of the Clean Air Act, helped Americans live better, healthier lives.

It’s safe to say that the work of the EPA has been fundamental in the shaping our country’s policies and practices regarding the protection and conservation of the environment. Happy anniversary and here’s to many more years of success!

Advance And Retain Women’s Role In The Financial Field - AZ Business Magazine Nov/Dec 2010

Two Valley Groups Are Working To Advance And Retain Women’s Role In The Financial Field

It wasn’t so long ago that a typical business meeting at a banking or financial institution was dominated by the good ol’ boys network. Well, not anymore. Today, you are likely to see more women among the dark suits at the table.

“I have watched women evolve,” says Deborah Bateman, executive vice president of specialty banking and marketing at National Bank of Arizona, and a founder of the Women’s Financial Group. Bateman boasts a professional background spanning more than 40 years in the banking industry.

“Early in my career, I think we tried to mirror men,” she says. “Over time, women have recognized the skill sets they can bring to business, such as collaboration, connecting, coaching (and) creating value inside Corporate America.”

Women’s roles in the banking and finance sectors are widening, and the proof is in the numbers. In 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, 54 percent of American women were employed in fields related to financial activities. This includes finance and insurance, banking and related activities, securities, commodities, funds, trusts and other financial investments. In Arizona, the percentage of women working in the finance and insurance industry also is significant. U.S. Census data shows there are actually more women than men working in these industries.

Although women have come a long way from their beginnings in these formerly male-dominated sectors, it is an ongoing struggle. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the disparity in salaries for men and women is significant.

In the Phoenix Metro area, during the third quarter of 2009, women made up 14.4 percent of the 35-44 age work force in finance and insurance (private sector) versus 10.4 percent for men. However, women in these fields average a monthly salary of $4,350, compared to men’s $6,643. For women aged 45 to 54, the salary gap grows even wider. In this age group, men on average earn 64 percent more.

“Women need to be more assertive about asking for money and tooting their own horn,” says Donna Davis, CEO of the Arizona Small Business Association (ASBA) and a member of the Women’s Financial Group. “It’s OK to promote your organization, it’s OK to ask for money and to ask for more.”

However, Emily Amparan, vice president of development at Factors Southwest, says she thinks the numbers don’t reflect the real gains women are making.

“I always hold those figures suspect, as I rarely encounter hindrances to make money and achieve success in the financial field,” she says. “I think if you believe it to be so, it probably is … however, the most successful women in the finance industry don’t pay any mind to talk of obstacles, as they forge ahead to make their own path.”

Helping women make their own paths in the financial sector is the mission of a number of organizations emerging all over the Valley. For example, Bateman founded an internal mentorship program at National Bank of Arizona in 2009, that quickly expanded to outside industries and individuals. Later renamed the Women’s Financial Group, the organization’s focus is to bring together women of all professional backgrounds to promote financial planning, mentoring, business services and networking.

Bateman says she hopes the Women’s Financial Group can serve as a catalyst for women to succeed and attain higher positions in banking and finance without compromising their identities.

“For years and years, we would dress in tailored blue suits and wear ties,” Bateman recalls. “Women can be women in the business world. It brings enormous value to business, to their organizations and to the community.”

In addition, Davis says the group can help “women become more savvy financial business people.”

At a recent Women’s Financial Group event, women of diverse backgrounds, both personal and professional, filled the room. Some women were just beginning their careers and some were veterans with decades of experience. But all were there with a mission: to pave the way for future success in their respective financial careers.

Another group aimed at women in the financial sector is Women in Banking, the local chapter of the national Risk Management Association. Founded in 2006, its first meeting took place at a Chevy’s restaurant with 14 business women in attendance. Today, the group includes 50 to 80 bankers, consultants, marketers and business owners from around the Valley. And despite its name, the committee encourages men to join and attend its events.

“There is definitely a need for a professional organization that brings business and banking together for positive networking,” says Amparan, who is a member of the organization’s leadership team.

Along with helping women plot their careers in financing, Women in Banking is a strong supporter of Fresh Start Women’s Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping women in areas such as career change, personal growth, family relationships and more. The group collects clothes for donation and works to raise money to sponsor Fresh Start’s annual golf tournament and fashion show.

That type of commitment to all women in the community is just one example of the impact women professionals in finance are making.

“Women in business are tremendous bridge builders and relationship makers,” Amparan says. “Banking and finance has become more of a warm, open environment to the credit of professional women across the state and country. People are starting to take notice of the successful way women are starting to do business and build relationships.”

Arizona Business Magazine Nov/Dec 2010

Elements at the Sanctuary - AZ Business Magazine Nov/Dec 2010

Elements At The Sanctuary Provides A Feast For The Eyes And Stomach

My dining companions and I took in the gorgeous view at the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa in Paradise Valley, as the sun set behind Mummy Mountain in a swirl of pink and purple, before settling into a deep blue. But make no mistake, it was the food that took center stage.

elements’ location within the Sanctuary must be some sort of homage to the resort’s name, as the restaurant is truly a haven for food lovers. With prominent chef Beau MacMillan — of Iron Chef America fame — at the helm, elements has flourished into an innovative restaurant with a flair for bringing out the best in every dish. MacMillan has a passion for fresh and organic ingredients, and believes food should be appreciated for its simplicity and natural goodness. After the Sanctuary’s renovation last year, elements’ kitchen doubled in size. MacMillan seized the opportunity to expand the menu to feature more local ingredients obtained from organic farmers, hormone-free meats, as well as more vegetarian and gluten-free dishes.

In the sleek, modern dining area, we began the night with some exquisite ginger eggplant hummus, served with fresh, crunchy bread. The hummus was unlike anything I’d ever tasted before, with an unexpected ingredient, ginger, that gave it a kick.

For our appetizers, we chose the roasted corn bisque, black truffle and lobster fritter; the pan fried, short rib ravioli topped with sugar-cured shallot, horseradish hollandaise and tomato jam; and last but not least, the crispy soft shell crab with green garlic aioli. They were all, to put it bluntly, fantastic. Each appetizer had its own unique flavor, but somehow left us with the same expression: Yum! The bisque had a smooth, creamy texture with hints of lobster. Meanwhile, the pan-fried, short rib ravioli was definitely a new spin on an old favorite.

Next up we sampled elements’ salads, which also featured an interesting mix of ingredients. The braised bacon and poached egg salad sounded more like breakfast, but turned out to be a good complement to the organic greens, shaved vegetables and soy sesame vinaigrette. But the standout was definitely the beet salad, featuring salt roasted beets and fennel, goat cheese, mizuna and toasted walnuts.

Soon it was time for the entrees. Over pleasant conversation and beautiful backdrops, we sampled various dishes. From the classic chicken dish to the special of the day, we kept our taste buds tingling. Another old favorite that garnered positive feedback was the prime flat iron steak. You can’t really go wrong with steak, and elements turned things up a notch — with roasted oyster mushrooms, heirloom baby potatoes and spring onions. After the tasty ginger hummus, we selected the carrot and ginger gnocchi as one of our dishes, and a good thing we did. The punch of flavor that the ginger brought once again surprised us — an unexpected but perfect addition.

Of course, we couldn’t leave without sampling some dessert. And were we glad we did. The piña colada was just as delicious as the cocktail, minus the alcohol. Featuring warm pineapple upside down rum cake with vanilla coconut anglaise and coconut gelato, it was the perfect ending to an exquisite meal. You might say all the “elements” were there for a perfect evening, as well.

If You Go:
elements at Sanctuary
Camelback Mountain and Spa
5700 E. McDonald Drive
Paradise Valley
(480) 948-2100

Arizona Business Magazine Nov/Dec 2010

True Food Kitchen Offers Simple, Delicious Meals

True Food Kitchen Offers Simple, Delicious Meals Emphasizing Local And Regionally Sourced Ingredients

Fresh local and regionally sourced food is always a score. Make it delicious and you’ve got a winner.

True Food Kitchen accomplishes just that.

The brainchild of best-selling author Dr. Andrew Weil and Fox Restaurant Concepts, True Food Kitchen was first introduced to the Valley two years ago at the Biltmore Fashion Park. Now, the Scottsdale Quarter has gained a tasty addition to its restaurant repertoire.

The menu at True Food Kitchen is unlike those at typical restaurants. Locally and regionally sourced ingredients create a simple but satisfying menu. Helpful guidelines in the menu allow patrons who are vegan, vegetarian or prefer gluten free to quickly choose their meal.

The new location also has other sustainable elements that add to the restaurant’s “green” vibe. It is partially powered by solar panels and has an herb garden adjacent to the restaurant that is utilized for many of the restaurant’s dishes. It also features high efficiency kitchen equipment, waterless urinals (saving 40,000 gallons of water a year), reclaimed wood floors, compostable take out containers, low voltage LED lighting and much, much more.

One of the neatest green factors I enjoyed is the reusable wine bottles, including a Chardonnay from a local winery in Flagstaff, Kind Vines. The bottles have painted labels and glass corks and are returned to the distributor to be washed, sanitized and reused. A real throwback to the old school milkman days.

Of course, the sustainable theme is felt throughout the restaurant’s décor with elements of nature visible in the fragrant herbs, potted plants and flowers dotting the interior and exterior.

But enough about the green stuff, let’s get to the food. The cuisine at True Food tastes different right away, but only in the best way possible. Every flavor, texture, and aroma is enhanced — you can simply taste the freshness in each bite. We began our meal with shrimp dumplings, comprised of shiitake mushrooms, brocolli, kale, ginger and cilantro – that packed just the right amount of punch.

Then we moved on to some entrees: Chicken Sausage Pizza topped with tomato, fennel and fontina as well as the Teriyaki Rice Bowl, made up of Asian vegetables, sesame, avocado and shrimp. The pizza was made with organic flour, spelt and flax seed and you can almost trick yourself into thinking it was as healthy as pure veggies.  But indeed, the normal greasy, pit-of-the-stomach feeling you get after eating pizza? Gone! These slices tasted fresh and invigorating, a testament to the quality of the ingredients.

The rice bowl was also a hit. Diners have a choice between pairing the dish with tofu, chicken or shrimp. I chose the shrimp option and was also blown away with the result. Just like the pizza, the rice bowl left me feeling satisfied but not stuffed. Each ingredient had its own unique flavor that harmonized perfectly together.

To top it off, we selected a flourless chocolate cake, made with 72 percent cocoa and topped with vanilla ice cream and caramel. The decadent treat was so good, we didn’t even miss the flour.

For an appetizing and healthy meal, True Food Kitchen is a fantastic choice for the health-conscious foodie with a hearty appetite.

If You Go:

Scottsdale Quarter
15191 N. Scottsdale Rd., Ste 100
Scottsdale, AZ 85254
480-265-4500
www.truefoodkitchen.com



Greenpeace International Urges Facebook To Use Green Data Centers

Greenpeace International Urges Facebook To Use Green Data Centers

Facebook is often under some kind of scrutiny in the news. Lately, this has been because of ongoing privacy complaints against the social-networking giant.

But the latest issue with Facebook isn’t about privacy, it’s about energy. An article in the NY Times highlights the issue. Greenpeace International, an environmental campaigner, contends that Facebook’s latest data center (under construction) in Prineville, Oregon, isn’t good for the environment. The data center is powered by PacifiCorp, a company that gets 58 percent of its energy from burning coal.

For a site that has more than 500 million members, Facebook’s reliance on data centers is obvious. But is this coming at a price? In the article, Lisa Rhodes, vice president of marketing and sales at Verne Global, a data center company based in Iceland, stated that “according to the Environmental Protection Agency, data centers now account for 1.5 percent of all electricity consumption in the U.S. and by 2020, carbon emissions will have quadrupled to 680 million tons per year, which will account for more than the aviation industry.”

Greenpeace is urging Facebook to switch to a more environmentally friendly source of energy. Other technology giants such as Google, Yahoo, Toshiba and Hewlett Packard have already taken steps to toward becoming greener. Google invested $38 million in wind farms and Yahoo cut 40 percent of carbon intensity of its data centers by 2014.

Yet, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is fighting back against these allegations. In a Facebook message to a Greenpeace supporter he writes: “Some of the old data centers we rent use coal, but most are already green.” He also added: “The newer ones we’re building from scratch in Oregon use hydro power from dams. We’re moving in the right direction.” Facebook representatives also added that Facebook rents data center space that is shared with other companies, making it impossible to decide what energy it’s powered with. However, the company did say that they’re moving toward larger, customized data centers with a focus on energy efficiency.

So what do you think? I doubt the thought of energy  efficiency crosses our minds as we log onto Facebook. But it’s good to hear that there are groups out there committed to implementing the type of change we need for a greener future and that companies are taking responsibility and responding to it.

www.facebook.com
www.nytimes.com

www.greenpeace.org

Vote today for the 2010 Midterm Election

Get Out And Vote!

Today’s the day. Nov. 2, 2010 otherwise known as Election Day. Across the country, millions of Americans are making their voice count by voting for the candidates they believe will best represent them.

You often hear that if you don’t vote, you can’t complain and I think that sentiment rings true. Politics is always a contentious subject, stirring emotions and opinions. But that’s the beauty of voting, making your voice heard. Every change, big and small, has to start somehow. Voting is a great place to begin.

If you’re not sure where your local polling place is, you can check your county website for more information or simply Google “polling place” and the name of your city and state. Not sure if you’re registered? With the help of Google’s election center things are easier than ever. Just type in your address and you find your polling place, whether you’re registered to vote, names of candidates and more. That said, the only thing left to do is get out there and vote!

recorder.maricopa.gov
maps.google.com/vote

The annual Taste of Biltmore - Seasons 52 had just the right treat. A unique twist on traditional desserts, the restaurant was offering little shot glasses filled with sweet treats such as old-fashioned carrot cake and rocky road.

Plenty Of Food And Fun At The Taste Of Biltmore Culinary Event

At the annual Taste of Biltmore held Oct. 7th 2010 on the front lawn of the National Bank of Arizona headquarters in Phoenix, guests gathered to sample cuisine from 14 premier Biltmore-area restaurants.

Created in 2007, the 4th annual block party brought together residents to try local food favorites while enjoying the sounds of jazz vocalist Laura Fial & Friends. There was plenty of food and fun to go around with dishes ranging from some old school favorites: grilled cheese and tomato soup from Frank & Albert’s to refreshing yogurt desserts courtesy of Mojo Yogurt. With such an eclectic mix there was truly something for everyone.

Other notable dishes included the smoked salmon on crispy bruschetta from Houston’s; shrimp ceviche over cucumber panna cotta from the Wrigley Mansion; and the delicious seared black Ahi tuna on a bed of wakame salad and fried wonton with wasabi cream sauce from McCormick & Schmicks. The tasty combinations were endless.

For those with a sweet tooth but trying to curb their calorie intake, Seasons 52 had just the right treat. A unique twist on traditional desserts, the restaurant was offering little shot glasses filled with sweet treats such as old-fashioned carrot cake and rocky road. The catch? It’s all under 475 calories, as is everything that is served in this restaurant. Definitely worth checking out for the health-conscious foodie. All the mini-dishes presented by the restaurant were palate-pleasing and allowed guests to sample just enough to leave them wanting more.

Featured restaurants included Aiello’s, Donovan’s Steakhouse, Hava Java, Houston’s, McCormick & Schmicks, Omaha Steakhouse, Ruth’s Chris, Mojo Yogurt, Seasons 52, Frank & Albert’s, The  Wrigley Mansion, Bluewater Grill, The Melting Pot and Adobe Restaurant.

The intimate event also served as the debut for We Are The Valley, a joint-fundraising program benefitting 11 local charities. Attendees had the opportunity to purchase special edition GivingBands, featuring the logo of a participating charity, made from recycled pewter and assembled by Arizona residents with disabilities.

The evening was a great success, promoting the delicious cuisine local restaurants have to offer and supporting a great cause.

A New Approach to Green

A New Approach To Going Green- Kansas Takes The Lead

Kansas probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think of sustainability, but you’d be surprised — the Sunflower State is making immense progress in saving energy and reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

This piece in The New York Times highlights the humble beginnings of the Climate and Energy Project, a small nonprofit group whose missions is to get people to limit their fossil fuel emissions. Kansas town managers are attributing the state’s new resolve largely to a yearlong competition sponsored by the Climate and Energy Project that “set out to extricate energy issues from the charged arena of climate politics” as noted in the article.

What sets this project apart from the countless other sustainability initiatives is the approach.  The decision was made to focus on thrift, patriotism, spiritual conviction and economic prosperity, using these four pillars to try to rally resident of six Kansas towns to make a change in their energy use.

Why did the conversation have to be about climate change, countered project chairwoman Nancy Jackson. If the goal was to persuade people to reduce their use of fossil fuels, why not identify issues that motivated them instead of getting stuck on something that did not, the Times article reported.

Despite a hefty roadblock — according to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press just  48 percent of people in the Midwest agree with the statement that there is “solid evidence that the average temperature on Earth has been getting warmer” — the project trudged on and worked to overcome the skeptics.

By the looks of things, it’s going well. One of the cities has already reduced its energy use by 5 percent and a wind turbine factory will be built in the Reno County area, creating as many as 400 local jobs.

Hopefully this will serve as an example for other communities who aren’t so quick to embrace the green movement. This unique approach proves that there you can always find a  way to move toward a sustainable future.

Source: www.nytimes.com

traveltips

Travel Tips From Our World Traveler

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” — St. Augustine

Ahh traveling. Who doesn’t love getting away and visiting new places? I know I do! I’ve done a bit of traveling, (though have many more plans in the future). Even with my novice travel experience I’ve picked up some pointers along the way. Hope these help when planning your next trip. Happy travels!

  1. Get a passport!

    Even if you don’t have any immediate travel plans, you never know when you’ll need it.

  2. Plan ahead

    While I’m a huge fan of spontaneity, some things are better not left to decide on a whim. Lodging and transportation are two things that I always try to have pinned down. You don’t want to be in a foreign country, with no money and nowhere to sleep. There are many travel options nowadays and planning ahead assures that you’ll get the best bang for your buck. I opted to travel throughout Europe using trains but if I had to do it again I’d like to plan my route further ahead of time and try to use some of the many low-cost airlines that fly to cities throughout Europe.

  3. Research

    This goes hand in hand with planning ahead. If you do your research and know where to go and what to do, your travel time will be spent actually doing and enjoying these things, instead of wasting time figuring out what to do.
    That said however, be open to change. Maybe you’ll meet some interesting people on the train and hang with them for a day? Or you stumble upon a cool art exhibit. This is the beauty of travel, soak it in.

  4. Lodging

    Look into cheap lodging options such as hostels or couch surfing (couchsurfing.org). Another great option is a site called airbnb.com. It works like a hotel (you pick your city and your price range) the only difference is you’ll be staying in someone’s home. You can opt for a private room or splurge on the whole place. Of course, if cost isn’t an issue then go for what your heart desires.

  5. Exchange Rates

    Be aware of current exchange rates and avoid places like airports and train stations to do the exchange (their rates are almost always not as good as exchange places that are a bit further away.) Sometimes the difference is minimal but at times it can save you a pretty penny. You can do some online research ahead of time to see where a good exchange place is located.

  6. Money

    Open a checking account at a bank with international locations (For example HSBC, which has locations worldwide.) This will save you from all the extra fees you incur when using your credit or debit card abroad. These rules vary from bank to bank though so you can also ask your local bank if they have an international partnership with a bank overseas. Either way, it’s definitely worth looking into especially for longer trips.

  7. Pack light!

    This is an obvious one, but if you’re like me it’s easier said than done. For my trip this summer I opted for a large camping-style backpack over traditional luggage because I know from experience that lugging one of those huge bags around can be torture. Elevators are not always an option, and it’s much easier to hoof it up a flight of stairs with a large backpack than dragging your luggage.

  8. Live It Up

    Last but not least, be adventurous and of course take lots and lots of photos! I usually take a few memory cards to store all my photos and worry about uploading them all when I get home. Be open to new experiences, try new foods, and most importantly have fun!

“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time” —Jack London

Green, but still feeling guilty about negatively impacting the environment

Taking The Blame: Sustainable Experts Feel The Guilt

Being green isn’t always easy. With the commercialization of practically everything nowadays, sometimes it’s simply easier to do things the “non-green” way.

And we’re not the only ones who succumb to this.

An article in the New York Times sheds light on this issue with a great piece titled “Green, but Still Feeling Guilty.”

In the story, several leading figures in the sustainability movement sheepishly admit that they, too, sometimes take the easy way out.

Disposable diapers are one example. Several of the individuals interviewed admitted to using them on their children. Despite their best efforts to act in a sustainable manner, often this is easier said than done, and there is no better example out there than babies and their diaper needs.

From having a pool, to owning two homes, the list of green “offenses” goes on. But the message remained the same: no one is perfect in the quest to lead a sustainable lifestyle. What matters most is that the good outweigh the bad. So you use diapers, no problem, but then you’ve got to minimize your impact in other ways and so forth.

In this day and age, it’d be difficult to lead a life that wouldn’t in some shape, way or form harm the environment. There’s no reason to feel guilty. There is a difference between wastefulness and necessity. Making smart choices in places that you can (i.e. recycling, limiting water use, etc) will hopefully make the kind of impact that will make Mother Earth happy with us for years to come.

Paper-To-Pencil Machine

Green News Roundup-Green Advertising, Products & More

Welcome back to our weekly green news roundup. This week we’ve decided to focus on introducing you to some green advertising campaigns and green products.

Please feel free to send along any interesting stories you’d like to see featured in the roundup by e-mailing kasia@azbigmedia.com

Also visit AZ Green Scene for informative articles on sustainability endeavors in the Valley and state. Read the latest article here.

G.E. Says, ‘Eco! Eco! Hello! Hello!’
General Electric has been revealing its innovative “ecomagination” ads since 2003. The newest ad campaign titled “Tag your green” is making its rounds through the viral landscape on Flickr, Howcast and YouTube. The goal is to encourage fresh ways of thinking about the environment.

DBA 98 Pen
While perusing the Web I came across two really exciting products that will make you look at office supplies in a whole different way.
The DBA 98 Pen is a 98 percent biodegradable pen, the only one in the world. The ink is made of simple, environmentally friendly ingredients and it was also produced in a wind-powered facility in the U.S. Talk about a green way to write!

Paper-To-Pencil Machine Repurposes Printed Pages
If your office looks anything like mine, there is always plenty of papers floating around. We do our best by recycling all our used paper, but this machine takes it to a whole new level! This concept was created by designers Chengzhu Ruan, Yuanyuan Liu, Xinwei Yuan & Chao Chen and it basically takes old paper and pops out whole pencils. The pencils core is fed in and then as the paper is put in the machine, it wraps around the core and is compressed. And voila! you’ve got yourself a pencil. Now will this make it to production? Who knows. But I think it’s a great tool. Even if the office doesn’t have much use for pencils, I’m positive local schools would be more than happy to accept them.

Image courtesy of: Yanko Design

Bikes as an alternative means of transportation.

Cycling – The Greener Way To Travel

Traveling throughout Europe this summer, I experienced several modes of transportation: From planes to trains, to buses, bikes and more.

I was pleased to come across this bit of news from the NY Times’ In Transit blog that featured an interesting event going on in Prague — one of the amazing cities I was lucky to visit during my trip.

Critical Mass, an event drawing attention to the bike culture, is being held Sept. 25 in Prague. The event begins with a “sustainable living” street party, eco-friendly fashion shows, music and more. Then the fun begins. Participants will bike a two-hour trip across main sections of the city and Nusle Bridge. Last year, approximately 5,000 cyclists participated.

Cycling is slowly but surely becoming a part of the city’s culture. Prague City Hall even launched a committee dedicated to improving the infrastructure for the city’s cyclists. More and more cities across Europe and the globe have begun to accept bikes as a serious means of transportation for its residents, clearly a good sign for the sustainability movement.

Another city I visited, London, has also recently launched a bicycle-renting program called Barclays Cycle Hire. Barclays has docking stations located throughout the city and residents simply need to sign up online, rent a bike and go! The program isn’t free (with the exceptions of trips up to 30 minutes which are!) but short trips won’t break the bank. Similar programs are also offered in Paris; Stockholm, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; Barcelona, Spain; and more! In the U.S., Minneapolis recently unveiled its system as well as Washington, D.C., and Pentagon City in Arlington, Va.

Hopefully we will see a similar program here in the Valley in the near future.

origin-minnesota.publicradio.org
http://intransit.blogs.nytimes.com
www.tfl.gov.uk

Insic Wall Socket

Green News Roundup- Green And Sustainable Retail Products

Welcome back to our weekly green news roundup. This week we’ve decided to focus on highlighting green products, some are available now and some are still in prototype stage. Either way, they point to an exciting new direction for the retail industry and their involvement with sustainability.

Please feel free to send along any interesting stories you’d like to see featured in the roundup by e-mailing kasia@azbigmedia.com

Also visit AZ Green Scene for informative articles on sustainability endeavors in the Valley and state. Read the latest article here.

Insic Wall Socket is an outlet product created by Designer Muhyeon Kim that lights up and displays how many watts are being used by whatever device is being plugged into it. The idea behind it is that users will see just how much energy their devices are using and will become more aware of unplugging things when not in use to save energy.

Simple Shoes based out of Flagstaff, Ariz. is committed to making sustainable footwear that is vegan and eco-friendly. Products include bamboo, organic cotton, crepe, jute, hemp, cork, water based glues, recycled car tires, and PET recycled plastic. Not only are the shoes sustainable but the entire manufacturing process is as well.

Healthy Baby Happy Earth is a store in Glendale, Ariz. that sells environmentally friendly items for babies including cloth diapers, organic cotton clothing and a food processor that allows parents to make their own baby food. A lot of their products also provide long-term purposes like the cloth diaper which can serve from newborn to potty-training age.

Yumberi Yogurt is serving up frozen treats in Glendale, Ariz. while also supporting a sustainable environment. All of the yogurts at Yumberi are served in biodegradable bowls made from corn oil and plant fibers and the spoons are made from potato skins. The company also supports eco-friendly events such as their monthly contest that asks kids to write a letter explaining what they are doing to help change the world.

Image via Yanko Design

This exhibit showing the creative uses of recycled items is aimed at raising awareness of the sustainability movement in Poland. Photo: Kasia Marciszewska

Seeing Poland In A Green Light

Our associate editor and resident green blogger, Kasia Marciszewska, is currently traveling in Europe. While there, she stopped by her native country of Poland. Ever vigilant about the subject of sustainability, Kasia sought out Poland’s green side.

Visiting my home country of Poland is always a fun and exciting experience. It seems every time I come here something is different, as Poland continues to shift and grow with the changing times.

This visit proved to me once again how far the country has come, when I realized that Poland was taking “being green” to a new level.  The concept of eco-friendliness in some ways is new to the country, but upon closer inspection it seems that Poland was on the road to helping the environment long before it became popular.

One way the country is and has been reducing its environmental impact is through its transportation system. Many of Poland’s residents commute via public transportation, which includes trams, rail and bus. Though not always the fastest routes, public transportation is an integral way of life for the Polish people and definitely the greener way to travel.

One can easily travel throughout Poland on public transportation. The rail systems span the whole country, and you can travel with relative ease; from the northern city of Gdansk all the way down to Krakow in the south, it’s all just a train ride away.  Travel to neighboring countries such as Germany and the Czech Republic also can easily be done via trains, making visiting other countries ecologically sound.

Though transportation by car has steadily increased over the years, the sizeable difference is in the cars themselves, literally. Cars in Poland are taxed based on their engine size, so many people choose to drive cars with smaller engines (thus fewer emissions) in order to reduce their costs. That frugalness helps the environment at the same time (The price of gas in Poland is also extremely high, so using public transportation makes much more economic sense for most people).

Another “green” innovation in Poland is grocery bags, or rather the lack thereof. Many of Poland’s cities are making an effort to reduce plastic bag waste by simply asking customers if they need a bag. The catch? If you want a bag you’ll have to pay for it! A nominal fee is tacked on for plastic bags during your shopping, so a better, cheaper and greener alternative is to bring your own bags.

The cities of Gdansk, Inowroclaw, Tychy and Zabrze already have passed local laws to ban the free handing out of plastic bags, and many more cities are deciding on similar initiatives.

Poland is truly undergoing a cultural shift toward environmental friendliness. Awareness about the topic is spreading with more and more initiatives sprouting up all over the country.

I recently observed an exhibition at a shopping center in Wroclaw titled “Eco Fashion.” The goal of the exhibition was to demonstrate practices on how to recycle with a focus on fashion.  The campaign showed a multitude of creative ideas for recycling everyday items into clothes, furniture and more, along with games, prizes and interesting facts about recycling. For example, did you know that recycling one plastic bottle saves enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for six hours?

The entries varied in shape and size from a plastic cup coffee table to a dress made from garbage bags. But the overall message was heard loud and clear, eco-friendliness is here to stay in Poland — with many more “green” advances to come!

How To Grow Green Jobs

How To Grow Green Jobs

I’m no economist but Nancy Folbre’s post on the Economix blog from the NY Times sure makes a lot of sense to me. Folbre is an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and offers a compelling argument for growing green jobs.

She questions why a major public program hasn’t gotten any traction in Congress or the White House. So what’s the problem? Despite the fact that according to a recent Pew Foundation report that green jobs grew at a much faster rate (nearly two and a half times faster) than overall jobs and an increase of green jobs in the United States and in other countries, “more green job-creation proposals have gotten stuck in the mud,” Folbre writes. Her colleague at the University of Massachusetts, Robert Pollin, offered some insights, with a suggestion of a public-private program platform and a commitment from the Obama administration to create 18 million new jobs over the remaining three years of the presidential term among several other points. But is this realistic? And more importantly is this affordable?

Well Folbre quickly answers that later in her post stating:

“But Professor Pollin makes a persuasive case for affordability. His plan would mobilize private as well as public capital by expanding federal loan guarantees to encourage banks to invest in energy-saving projects.

The potential benefits are huge: the direct and indirect effects of his proposed initiative could add up to 18 million jobs over the next three years.

Even if national political will is lacking, a strong state or regional pilot project should be undertaken — a serious experiment in public job creation.”

Read Pollin’s full argument for reaching the goal of 18 million jobs by 2012 here.

I’m not quite sure about the economics but one thing I do know is that more jobs are definitely needed to truly help our nation recover. Working to enable green jobs, jobs that will help sustain not only our economy but our planet as well would be icing on the cake.

Sources:
economix.blogs.nytimes.com
www.thenation.com
www.pewtrusts.org